Substance Abuse Counseling must also be Spiritual Counseling too
Substance Abuse is more than just a physical analysis of the body and its dependency on a drug. It is even more than a psychological issue. The reality is that when one is treating someone for a dependency on a drug, one must treat the unique wholeness of that individual. This is where Christian Counseling or even merely Spiritual Counseling comes into contact with Substance Abuse Counseling.
From a more theological perspective, one must go beyond the physical and psychological manifestations of addiction but also see the spiritual elements that are at play. In essence, if one accepts the reality of the soul, then one also accepts the reality of sin. Sin is a rejection of truth and an acceptance of something in its place. Some sins are occasional, while others can become habitual. It is when a sin becomes habitiual that it becomes a vice that pollutes the beauty of the soul and dampens one’s spiritual life with God on a consistent basis.
The particular vice of addiction correlates with drunkeness, which is one of the seven capital
sins. This root vice can be applied to any substance that is used in excess to lessen reason. This vice is counter to the virtue of temperance which teaches one to moderate any physical pleasures. It also contradicts the teaching to respect one’s body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. Through the misuse of substances, one not only hurts one’s body but also damages other social relationships. One’s family, schooling and career can be ruined via substance abuse. Furthermore, the substance becomes one’s god in many ways. Everything else is put second to this devouring new god that demands finance and time at the expense of spiritiual and physical well being.
With these things in mind, what does the virtue of temperance include? Does it demand complete abstinence from all substances that can alter the mind? This is a divided question among religious. Islam strictly forbids any form of achololic drink, much less any addictive drugs. Christianity, however, offers a mixed reaction. While all Christian denominations condemn drunkeness and drug use, there is division upon moderate consumption of alchoholic beverages. Some denominations of Christianity condemn all drinking of alchol and strictly forbid it. Other denominations, including Catholicism, do not condemn drinking if it is done so moderately and without the production of an altered state. These denominations primarily site
the story of Christ at the Wedding Feast of Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. They also site the Last Supper where Christ turned wine into his blood. All cases showed that Jesus partook in the consumption of wine and did not officially oppose it usage.
Yet, despite moderate usage, alcohol still can pose a threat to addicts. In these cases, recovering addicts must avoid occasions of sin and temptations by completely removing themselves from the environment this vice lurks. Counselors of both Substance Abuse and Christian Counseling need to understand the addictive nature of these substances to their clients. The power of addiction as a physical force is strong enough. One simple slip can enslave the person again to its power. In this way addiction is more than a physical force but also a spiritual vice. From a spiritual view, addiction is demonic in origins and hopes to lead the soul down a dark path void of the light of Christ. In this way, whether a religious counselor or a substance abuse counselor, one needs to see the spiritual war that is taking place within the soul. The person needs to find virtue and grace to finally overcome any addiction. By replacing their vice with virtue and filling the void that addition gives with the love of Christ, one can overcome any addiction. In this way, a spiritual rebirth or rediscovery is essential for spiritual healing. This is key because usually what initially turned the person to the drug was due to a spiritual wound. The drug and the subsequent addiction is an attempt to escape the spiritual damage. One must face their pain, heal it and move on. This can only be accomplished via God. In this way, I hope Substance Abuse Counselors also discover the need to become Spiritual Counselors because the whole nature of the person needs treated not just merely the physical and psychological manifestations.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C